Selling Like a Neuro-Semanticist

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

What greater integrity and congruence is there than applying one’s own principles, patterns, and models to oneself? Is there a greater integrity? Since I can’t think of one, let’s play with this idea and see where it takes us.

  • Given the NLP and NS models, how do these models help us to sell, market, and influence?
  • Starting from the assumptions built into the very structure of NLP and Meta-States, what does this imply for the art of persuasion?
  • How does selling like a neuro-semanticist differ from any other kind of selling?

Recently, I have been thinking about how specifically Neuro-Semantics (NS) and the Meta-States model extends the modeling of “sales” that NLP began. These thoughts began one day when I received a phone call.

“You wrote that book review of Bandler’s ‘Persuasion Engineering,’ didn’t you?”


“And you have been taking NLP further with Meta-States, haven’t you?”

“Yes, Meta-States has been expanding NLP.”

“Well, I really liked the work you did in Selling Excellence, but I’ve been wondering, what’s next? And what’s new in Neuro-Semantics about selling that takes selling even further?”

At first the question caught me a bit off guard, I did suggest some of the following, but what follows is more coherent than what I said that day.

UP on Selling

If NLP leads us to understand that there’s a structure to every experience, NS points us upward to the higher levels of that structure– and particular to the higher contextual meanings. Starting with NLP, we think in terms of the question: “Where does a brain-body go in response to this or that trigger?” Using the flow chart of human responsiveness (e.g., the TOTE model), we become aware that–

  • In selling, we send brains places.
  • In persuading, we evoke memories and imaginations which induce states.
  • In influencing, we think strategically about the best states to evoke, the states that will bring out the person’s desire, motivation, decision making strategy, etc.

NS takes us further. We not only think about responsiveness to outside triggers, we think about a given person, or typical group of people, and the internal contexts of meanings that they bring with them. So we move upward. We move up to their frames of reference and their frames of meaning.

  • Now selling, as a neuro-semanticist, also becomes an exploration, awareness, and use of the person’s matrix of meaning frames.
  • What cultural or environmental values and beliefs does the person use as reference points?
  • What higher frames does the person rely on for meaning, feeling convinced, influenced to act, etc.?

In other words, we begin to think and analyze things in terms of the current and desired frame games.

  • What frame game, or games, is the person currently playing?
  • What’s the agenda, motivation, and intention of the game?
  • What’s the payoff, set-up, and point system of the game?
  • How useful, practical, ecological, enhancing, resourceful, etc. is the game?
  • How ready is the person to play a new and different game?
  • What new frame game could we offer?
  • How would we go about introducing, inducing, and sitting up the new frame game?

Being Up on Selling Means we Sell Higher Meanings

Knowing that the higher frame governs and that when a higher frame is set, it will operate as an attractor in a self-organizing system, this describes one of the key leverage points for a neuro-semanticist.

1) What higher frame would this particular person need in order to step out of the old games and into the magic and power of a new frame?

2) What higher, but frustrated intention does the person already have that would offer a perfect alignment and immediately “lock right into” his or her matrix of frames?

3) How much aversion and how much attraction does the person need in order to make the transition and in what proportions?

4) What other higher frames would the person find most appealing and attractive?

5) Does the person respond best to overt (explicit) or covert (implicit) communications?

Using these questions begins the influence process. In Meta-States/ NS training we have numerous overt and explicit patterns that work with these processes. Translating them into conversational processes that you can use in everyday talk, memos, reports, etc. enable us to use them covertly.

For the first question, think “The Miracle/ Magic Pattern,” the “Pretend Frame,” and the “Presupposition Frame.” What would have to be true for the person, what would have to exist in the person’s world, orientation, way of thinking, in order for him or her to just step into the new frame and let it become a transformative frame of mind that would change everything?

For the second question, think about the Intention Elicitation Pattern, Core Transformation, Meta-States Alignment Pattern, etc. Here look for a positive intention at its highest levels, an intention that’s been frustrated by inadequate behavioral expressions. The person wants to, but doesn’t know how. Perhaps the person doesn’t have a clue about the how. This person is primed and ready for the how. Selling to this person means what?

1) Elicit the intention of intention, the outcome of outcome, the person’s highest “core” state and …

2) Point them to the strategy that articulates the “how.”

For the third and fourth questions, think “Toward” and “Away From” Meta-Programs, the Propulsion System Pattern, and the Values Elicitation pattern. Know what kind of things the person values and treats important and the proportion of attractions and aversions, gives us clue as to how to interface these facets of the benefits that we’re selling.

“And as you no longer feel controlled and dominated by the manipulations of other people, you feel yourself turning toward a future full of choice and personal power, knowing that as you own your own Power Zone of responses, you’re totally free to make up your own mind; and wouldn’t that be a relief from the hassles that you have put up with?”

For the fifth question, think about the Frame Game Analysis distinction between explicit and implicit and the Meta-Program of Strong-Will or Compliant. Speak to those who use the identification frame of “will” with indirection patterns: story, metaphor, implication, etc. Speak to the more compliant, those who “can be told things,” with explanation.

Thinking Neuro-Semantically

When we move upward into the higher levels of mind, into the way we keep layering and texturing our mind with additional references and meanings, we begin to appreciate the wondrous mystery of the mind, its richness, and how the people we speak with and seek to influence never just have “one thought” about anything. They have multiple thoughts and then multilevel thoughts about those thoughts. Recognizing this begins the process of thinking neuro-semantically.

  • What meaning does the person give to this?
  • What meaning does the person give to that meaning?

Next, we begin to question and explore that richness. What are the qualities of the person’s thinking and feeling? Does the person want to buy?

“Great!” says the regular salesperson and jumps right in.

But not the neuro-semanticist. It’s not enough to know that a person wants to buy. Suppose the person wants to buy and fears wanting to buy? Or, distrusts the person trying to sell him even though he wants to buy? Have you ever been in that position? Suppose a person wants to buy and yet at the same time fears being taken advantage of, feels a lack of confidence that this is the right investment, etc.?

Recognizing that mind is generally richly textured like this, the neuro-semanticist sells best by asking questions–magical questions. He or she will ask the magical questions that allows the buyer to develop more clarity, conviction, trust, awareness, choice, etc. And doing that facilitates the buyers who truly need and want the product or service to recognize it and sell him or herself. It’s a different model. It may use emotional pressure at a later point when the person needs and wants to feel more attracted to valued choices or averted from dis-valued choices, but it does not use pressure to take that responsibility away from the person. This slower, and much more respectful, approach build relationship and long term rapport.

The neuro-semanticist more fully respects the matrix of frames that govern and structure the meanings– emotions that people experience. Then, as we work with the consciousness of our customers and clients, we focus on framing in all of its forms: deframing, reframing, outframing, post-framing, pre-framing.